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Read the first instalment of the Newcastle Course Blog series here.
Read the second instalment of the Newcastle Course Blog series here
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Man, that was intense.
 
Twelve students’ first two pages of a story. Yes, all shared beforehand, but group-critted in two hours flat. Do the math. Ten mins each. Bang bang bang bang bang . . .
                                                                                             without a break.
 
And it was snowing.
 
And some of us only went and storied off-piste. Sent out old work not new. Way more than a story’s first two pages. Some sent out stories of 4,000 words plus! You know who you are.
 
But, each of us having seen, up until this point, only the work of our two or three fellow sub-group members, it was just what the group needed, I thought, anyway.
 
Because with two two-hour sessions behind us, whilst I would have recognised any one of our cohort in the street — but of course I would have, of course I would have — up until last Tuesday, to be honest, I might have struggled to put the right name to every face.
 
Now I have a name and a story to put to every face. A much more reliable memory-aid in my world than a name, a story. Is that how it works in others’?
 
Face: check.
                      Name: check.
                                              Story: check.
 
                                              Ahhh, that story: four-thousand words plus.
                      Lister; Clayton.
Beard-face!
 
All right. Ski mits up, I submitted an old story, a complete story, way more than the first two pages requested. It was me. But others did too, after I had. You know who you are.
 
So, anyways, thank you thank you thank you, everybody, for taking the trouble to read it all — especially those of you who submitted fewer than two pages. That was not a fair trade of time and effort. Got my feedback at a steal. Everything out of it I could have hoped for, too. So am I sorry? Really sorry?
Nah.
 
But I do hope everybody else got out of theirs what they wanted.
 
And ski-helmet off most deferentially to those who submitted incomplete first drafts. Really now. No, I mean it. I mean it really I do. Twelve more pages than asked for was chancing it. I knew that when I sent it out. It did not occur to me until Tuesday how unfair submitting a piece so much more developed than others is. How much safer, all said and done.
 
So. In any case. Whether first draft or umpteenth, complete or incomplete, every one of our dozen stories delivered its own particular pleasure, I’d say. And, perhaps more importantly, as Avril said on the night, there is much to learn from being party to constructive criticism of others’ work. Advice we can always apply to our own.
 
Sounding earnest now. Worthy. Squirming. Slippery slope.
 
Stop . . .
               can’t . . .
                              Aaghhh. . .! 
I went to bed absolutely wired on Tuesday night  which, incidentally, did not help negotiations through the snow at stupid o’clock Wednesday morning. Wired for thinking about stories. ‘If so and so’s (what’s-her-name’s, whaserface’s) were mine, what would Ido with it? Where would I take it? Where will she?’
I do hope all those stories’ beginnings get the endings they deserve.

Clayton Lister is a long-time lover of the short story. Most recently, his stories have appeared in Bare Fiction, Prole Magazine and the HISSAC Winners Anthology.
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